Wil Wheaton, an actor, is getting criticism for this Twitter tweet that was in response to a call for prayers by House Speaker Paul Ryan following the murder of 26 people in a Texas church.
Wheaton apologized to offended religious believers, but the points he was making really don't deserve an apology.
There's no evidence that praying changes anything in the absence of some physical action. The most scientifically rigorous study of prayer showed no effect on the recovery of people who had heart surgery (prayed-for people actually had more complications, not less).
As Wheaton said, the 26 people who were killed by Devin Patrick Kelley were sitting in a church. If they weren't praying at the exact moment Kelley began shooting, almost certainly they had been praying beforehand.
Yet politicians love to call for "thoughts and prayers" after every mass shooting. So do the anchors on cable news shows. It's a ritual that does more harm than good, as an atheist, Hemant Mehta, cogently argued in Prayer is Useless and Has a Downside.
While the main purpose of prayer may be to help others, it never demonstrably does that. Prayers benefit only those believers who say or hear them. Prayer gives them comfort. It lets them think they have some control over a situation that may be out of their hands. It’s the last resort of people who have run out of ideas, and the first resort of people who never bothered to think about how they could actually fix the problem at hand.
This is not harmless. There’s a very real downside to praying.
It lulls believers into a false sense of accomplishment. We cannot solve our problems – much less the world’s – through prayer. We often see people with good intentions praying for victims in the wake of a tragedy, but prayer is useless without action, and those actions make the prayers irrelevant. To paraphrase the great Robert Green Ingersoll, hands that help are far better than lips that pray.
I have no problem with “prayer” as an act of meditation. In fact, many atheists can tell you the benefit of silent self-reflection. The delusion occurs when you think someone else is hearing your thoughts and acting on them.
When it comes down to it, prayer is illogical, even in religious terms. If God has a plan, why try to thwart it? If God can be swayed by prayers, what kind of God would allow the horrors we see in the world? And if two devout believers pray for different things, how does God choose the winner? (I'm sure the San Antonio Spurs would love to know the answer to that.)
Prayer is nothing but a powerful placebo. We’d all be better off accepting that.
So Wheaton was completely justified in taking Paul Ryan to task for calling for prayers rather than some sort of action that would actually do something to stop more mass shootings. Here's some of what we know about the killer.
The US Air Force has said it is investigating its apparent failure to enter information about Texas shooter Devin Patrick Kelley's criminal history into the national database.
Ex-airman Kelly was court-martialled for domestic violence in 2012, and was barred from owning or buying guns.
But last year he was able to purchase a rifle he used in Sunday's attack on a small church outside San Antonio.
He killed 26 people and fled the scene. He was later found dead in his car.
The killer was able to buy an AR-15 assault rifle and other guns. He took 15 30-round magazines into the church and fired all of that ammunition at the people sitting in pews, along with the assistant pastor giving the sermon.
I don't believe in God.
Those who do have to come to grips with the fact that being in a house of worship and offering up prayers didn't prevent 26 people from being killed. Given that fact, how could anyone conclude that more praying is going to do anything to help those at risk of a future mass shooting?
Wil Wheaton's tweet may have been politically incorrect, but it also was politically right-on as regards the reality of gun violence in this country. The reason we have more gun deaths than other advanced countries is because we have more guns and we fail to regulate them properly.
Columnist Eugene Robinson spoke truly in "The blood of innocents is on our hands."
“Thoughts and prayers” are fine. Locking arms “through the tears and the sadness,” as President Trump prescribed, is all well and good. But none of this does a damn thing to stop, or even slow, the carnage.
...Why did he do it? We may never be certain; the assailant, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, is dead. But we can say with certainty how he did such an unspeakable thing: with a gun designed for warfare, a weapon that has no business in civilian hands.
...The United States is alone among advanced countries in having gun policies that facilitate, rather than obstruct, deadly rampages such as Kelley’s. The Supreme Court has made clear in its rulings that the Second Amendment permits reasonable gun-control measures. This crisis is political, not constitutional.
You and I have the power to elect leaders who will reduce gun violence. The blood of innocents is on our hands.